Mission and your next-door neighbor

What would you do if a family moved in next door, but the language they spoke was unknown to you?

Jim Ayer serves as vice president for Advancement and host/producer of Making Waves TV, Adventist World Radio, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

We find mission embed­ed in the very heart of he gospel. The Creator of mission—Jesus Christ—set forth the formula for its ultimate success: Come to Me and then go, share what you have received from Me with the world (cf. Mark 2:14; 16:15). No matter where a Christian presence is found, it is a certainty that missionaries have been sent forth, following the Master’s command.

If you have received the blessing of “going” for Christ, in either a short-term or long-term capacity, I am sure your mental hard drive is full of memo­ries. Many Christian denominations engage in mission service, and I am happy that I am part of a worldwide church that also believes in mission, sending out its first missionary, J. N. Andrews, in 1874.1

Mission is in the very DNA of Seventh-day Adventists. The passion to carry the message of a soon-coming Savior to the world grows brighter every day. Because of this passion, according to the Web site Adherents .com, Adventists rank number six in the “Top 10 largest highly international religious bodies. These are religious bodies in which at least 30% of their world membership lives outside the ‘core country’ (country with the largest number of members).”2

Mission focus has evolved

In recent years, the focus of mission has intensified in the area designated as the “10/40 Window.” The term was first coined by Luis Bush, a Christian missionary during the 1990s. It refers to the Eastern Hemisphere between 10 degrees and 40 degrees north latitude, stretching from the western coast of Africa to the eastern coast of Asia. Roughly two-thirds of the world’s population lives in this area; the vast majority of the region’s inhabitants are non-Christian.3

The sheer number of languages spoken in this “window” is stagger­ing, but the radio mission arm of the Adventist Church—Adventist World Radio (AWR)—has been working diligently for the past 41 years to blanket the region with the message of hope and salvation in Jesus Christ. At present, AWR is broadcasting this message in more than 100 major, mission critical languages. Our program production focuses on the most widely spoken languages of the world, enabling us to blanket about 80 percent of the earth’s total population.

Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk, in Operation World, make this important observation: “The potential audience for Christian radio programming is 99% of the world’s population, assuming good recep­tion, availability of a radio, and a desire to find the programs.”4 AWR has taken advantage of this fact by using the technology of shortwave, AM, and FM radio to reach out to this vast audience.

The mind-set of many people in North America indicates that short­wave radio has become an oddity or passé—unlike radio listeners in the 10/40 Window. For them, shortwave radio is often their only means of receiving any radio programming at all. One listener wrote to us and said, “I never knew in all my life that there was any other religion other than Hinduism and Buddhism; but you have introduced me to Jesus Christ. Thank you for allowing me to taste the sweetness of God.”

The window has moved

People all around us hunger for a word from the Lord! There must be a greater urgency to our work. This is not a time to relax, but, energized by the Spirit, we must move ever forward in claiming territory for God. According to Mark Baxter, “In the last 40 years over 1 billion people have died who have never heard of Jesus, and around 30 million people this year will perish without hearing [the message of salvation].”5

A statement made recently by Dan Jackson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, should be consid­ered when pondering the plight of our neighbors. While addressing a leadership meeting, he stated with great solemnity, “The 10/40 Window just moved in next door.” He was referring to the massive number of people from the 10/40 Window moving to the United States and Canada from every corner of the globe. The Hmong speaker, the Chin, the Mandarin, the Arabic, the Vietnamese, the Lao, the Spanish, and the Burmese have moved here­ the diaspora is staggering in number!

In April 2010, the New York Times shared this mind-boggling informa­tion, “While there is no precise count, some experts believe New York is home to as many as 800 languages­ far more than the 176 spoken by students in the city’s public schools or the 138 that residents of Queens, New York’s most diverse borough, listed on their 2000 census forms.”6

New York’s Lower East Side was probably the area where the phrase melting pot was first used.7 But the size of the “pot” has increased to include the entire nation and “melt­ing” takes time. The United States Census Bureau found that more than 55 million people above the age of five years old speak a language other than English in their homes.8 Indeed, mission has moved in next door!

“‘Things are changing in the U.S. and Canada,’ said Ed Stetzer, vice president of Life Way Research and Ministry Development. ‘By 2050, there will be no majority race or eth­nicity in the United States. Already, in Toronto, the majority of residents were born outside of Canada. This is a wake-up call to the Church in North America. The nations of the world are living right here, yet many are not hearing the gospel in an intentional, organized way. We can do better.’ ”9

What would you do if a family moved in next door to you but they spoke no English and the language they did speak was unknown to you? Now, let’s assume they are not Christians. I am sure you will agree that they still need to hear about Jesus Christ and His saving love.

What can you do?

As a pastor, you and your con­gregation may be struggling right now with this situation. If you pastor in a large city like New York City, you are certainly faced with this dilemma. AWR remains aware that the call to mission still exists; but the recipient of that mission has become a moving target, so we have developed effective tools for you and your church family to deal with this new twenty-first-century mission paradigm.

In 2010, AWR began an exciting new phase of outreach by placing our language broadcasts on the Internet and podcasts. There are close to two billion Internet users in the world, and the number grows daily. We now offer podcast pro­grams in over 100 languages.

Let’s assume your neighbor speaks only Vietnamese. Log on to www.awr.org/share or www.awr.org/en/share to select the language of your choice—in this case Vietnamese. There, you will find a beautiful invitation that you can first read in English to understand and approve before you hand it out:

There is a wonderful message of Peace and Happiness that has meant a lot to me, and I would like to share it with you. To listen to one or several of these messages in your own language—every day if you like—simply log on to your computer at www.awr.org /podcasts. On that page you will find many languages. Locate the program in the Vietnamese language and click the icon. It will open to a page that will allow you to choose from a large selection of programs. Please invite your friends and family to join you. May you find the same Peace and Happiness from these messages that I have found.

If you are happy with the wording, proceed to download the invitation. From there, it’s easy; knock on the neighbor’s door, smile, and when he or she answers, hand the invitation to him or her. That’s it! There is nothing more to do—easy witnessing! The program content is culturally sensitive because our producers are born and raised within the specified language group. And you can share the gos­pel message using this technology without the risk of embarrassment or concern regarding program content and quality.

In addition, some language groups, based in our bigger cities, have become so large that they have their own newspapers. For many of the languages on our site, we have sample classified ads available that will enable you to download the wording and place ads that will blanket an entire population center.

“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14). The best time to proclaim the message of Christ to the diaspora is in the first generation—before they settle in and become too comfortable.

Ed Stetzer issued a challenge: “Believers in North America need to stop waiting for a ‘melting pot’ to impact immigrants and instead make personal efforts to engage the first-generation immigrants around them with the gospel.”10

Practical application

I once interviewed a convicted murderer named Tao Tung for the TV series Making Waves. Tao was thrown into prison for killing his landlord, and, while in prison, he got into a fight with another inmate and killed him too.

Amazingly, he was let out of jail after serving four years of his sen­tence. He had no idea why he was released but was happy to be free. He returned to his city and found that his old home was still vacant. Not long after moving back in, there was a knock at the front door.

Cautiously peering through a crack, he saw a nicely dressed couple standing on the porch with a radio in hand. His curiosity was piqued so he opened the door and invited them in, and they introduced themselves as his neighbors next door. They explained that they were Baptist Christians and they brought him a radio as their friendship gift.

They showed him a particular channel on the dial (Adventist World Radio) and told him that it had been a great blessing to them and knew it would be to him as well. He was a Buddhist, but thought they were very kind to give him this gift.

They had been so nice that he decided to listen to the programs and soon fell in love with Jesus. He was baptized and now shares his love for Christ with all who will listen. It is ironic that his name in English means shining brightly.

Pastor, if your church family has neighbors who have moved from their homeland—feeling a little inse­cure, out of place—and are hungering for something, Jesus is the answer to that hunger. And with gospel programming in more than 100 languages, AWR will equip your members with the needed tools to satisfy that hunger! Together, we can help introduce your neighbors to Jesus Christ.




1 See Mervyn Maxwell, “J.N. Andrews Life Sketch,” Andrews University, accessed September 17, 2012, www.andrews .edu/about/jna_sketch.html.

2 “Religious Bodies of the World With at Least 1 Million Adherents,” Adherents, accessed September 17, 2012, www.adherents.com/adh_rb.html#International.

Wikipedia contributors, “10/40 Window,” Wikipedia, accessed September 17, 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org /wiki/10/40_Window.

4 Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk, Operation World (Tyrone, GA: Authentic Media, 2005), 7.

5 R. Mark Baxter, The Coming Revolution: Because Status Quo Missions Won’t finish the Job (Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing, 2007), 12.

6 Sam Roberts, “Listening to (and Saving) the World’s Languages,” New York Times, April 28, 2010, accessed September 18, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/29 /nyregion/29lost.html?pagewanted=all.

Wikipedia contributors, “Demographics of New York City,” Wikipedia, accessed September 18, 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_New_York_City.

8 Hyon B. Shin and Robert A. Kominski, Language Use in the United States: 2007 (Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010), PDF, accessed September 18, 2012, www.census .gov/prod/2010pubs/acs-12.pdf.

9 Brooklyn Lowery, “LifeWay Research Finds Outreach to First-Generation Immigrants Succeeding, Needs Improvement,” LifeWay, March 29, 2010, accessed September 18, 2012, www.lifeway.com/ArticleView?storeId=10054&catalogId =10001&langId=-1&article=LifeWay-Research-finds -outreach-to-first-generation-immigrants-succeeding-needs -improvement.

10 Ibid.

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Jim Ayer serves as vice president for Advancement and host/producer of Making Waves TV, Adventist World Radio, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

November 2012

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